Ghosts in the Parentheses

Something stayed with me after I read Howie Good’s “Pilots Called Them Flying Coffins”, and it wasn’t the words themselves. It was the space after each line and before the next.

What is it about this poem that haunts me? Suspense made palpable. Foreboding as big as time and weather. Stark images of war, juxtaposed: the final line of defense and its devastating failure. Deprivation conveyed in a single detail that tells us the state of the world. Finality.

Much of this is implied in the title, as is a sense of history. We are looking into the past, going back around a dark corner when war for the Western world was not “over there” somewhere. The well-chosen details unfold the poem into a time and place that gives us pause as we consider contemporary travails and contrast them with catastrophe. There is no escaping what has come before.

About Eric Dieterle

A writer of environmental literature and a public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University.
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